Disc protrusion FAQ — frequently asked questions

At Laser Spine Institute, we’ve assembled a list of frequently asked questions that we hear from patients with a disc protrusion. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with the condition or are starting to explore surgery, this FAQ can help you learn more about disc protrusion.

Q: What is disc protrusion?

A: Disc protrusion occurs when part of a spinal disc protrudes from its normal position from between two vertebrae. Often, it happens when a disc’s inner core pushes outward through a weak spot in the outer rim. This can occur in several parts of the spine:

  • A cervical disc protrusion occurs in the cervical (upper) region of the spine
  • A thoracic disc protrusion occurs in the thoracic (middle) region of the spine
  • A lumbar disc protrusion occurs in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine

Q: What causes disc protrusion?

A: Protruded discs are often the result of the natural aging process. As a person gets older, their discs lose water and protein content, making them more prone to damage. Protrusions develop when the softer inner layer of a disc begins to push out against a weak, deteriorated spot in the outer layers of a disc.

Other causes include weight, injury and family history.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: Disc protrusion is not always symptomatic. Typically, patients experience pain or discomfort if the protruded material pushes up against a nerve root or the spinal cord. This can cause pain at the point of the compression, or it can cause muscle weakness, numbness, tingling and shooting pain in the extremities. If a protruding disc develops into a ruptured or herniated disc, it can also cause local pain at the site of the disc rupture.

Q: What are some treatment options?

A: Physicians often recommend a combination of conservative treatments for patients with disc protrusion. Commonly recommended therapies include medication, exercise, physical therapy and lifestyle changes. These often provide enough pain relief that patients can continue participating in their daily routines.

Q: Will I need surgery?

A: Surgery isn’t always necessary, but can become a serious consideration for patients who are no longer getting the relief they require from conservative treatment options.

If you have been recommended for surgery but have concerns about the risks and difficulties of a traditional open spine surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is performed with a less than 1-inch incision, is an outpatient procedure and offers our patients a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.^


To learn more, reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.